Grade Levels: K-3

In this mathematical-thinking lesson plan, adaptable for grades K-3, students play Wuzzit Trouble Jr., a game that playfully challenges students to solve fun puzzles, while seamlessly developing mathematical thinking abilities, including systems and critical thinking, pattern recognition, algebraic thinking, problem solving, and number sense.  


Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Use a range of mathematical strategies to problem solve, including but not limited to addition and subtraction, place value, multiplication and division, pattern recognition, factors and multiples, and positive and negative numbers.
  2. Express their mathematical thinking orally and/or in writing.
  3. Develop their own mathematical puzzles for classmates to solve.


  • Computers or other devices with Internet access
  • Interactive whiteboard
  • Several basketballs, or other type of bouncing balls
  • Multiplication fact sheets (optional)


This lesson plan features a mathematical thinking game called Wuzzit Trouble Jr. developed by BrainQuake. In this game, students use mathematical thinking and problem solving skills to determine how many times to turn a gear to collect keys which will release creatures called Wuzzits from their cages. Along the way, students earn stars by making the minimum number of moves to collect the keys. The fewer moves they make, the more stars they earn.

To ensure that early learners are able to progress to the advanced puzzles (that require higher order mathematical reasoning), the game begins with simple puzzles focusing primarily on learning how to play the game. At the earliest levels, for example, students simple move the gear to the target number. As the levels progress, students will need to move the gear multiple times to reach the total. Depending on their proficiency, some may skip count while others use operations such as addition or multiplication. The goal is to move towards using operations.

Preview and play Wuzzit Trouble Jr. to plan how you will adapt it to your students’ needs. Depending on your classroom routines and available technology, you may want to consider these grouping options:

  • 1:1 with students and devices
  • Two to four students sharing one device and swapping ideas and the device back and forth
  • Station model where small groups rotate through using the devices
For ideas on ways to use the game in your classroom, take a look at the suggested Implementation Ideas for Wuzzit Trouble Game.   

For background on the different game levels and activities, review Wuzzit Trouble Learning Principles and Classroom Activity Suggestions.

Determine which BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr. movies to use to help building background knowledge or support existing skills:


Prime Numbers, Adding and Subtracting Integers, Multiplication, Division, Critical Reasoning, Problem Solving Using Tables, Fractions, Polynomials

BrainPOP Jr.

Basic Adding, Basic Subtraction, Adding with Regrouping, Adding and Subtracting Tens, Repeated Addition, Repeated Subtraction,

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Begin with an off-screen warm up activity. Divide the class into small groups of no more than five students. Each group stands in its own circle. Hand one ball to each group. Explain that they are to take turns bouncing the ball so that it bounces a total of 10 times, but the rule is that each person can only bounce the ball a maximum of two times before it goes to the next person. For example, two people cannot bounce it five times each to get to the 10 bounces. Groups should discuss their strategy before they begin bouncing. Allow a few minutes for the warm up. If a group finishes quickly, they can play again with a different multiple. After, have groups share their strategies with each other.
  2. Play one of the related BrainPOP or BrainPOP Jr. movies you selected to reinforce the targeted skills (see Preparation section above).
  3. Project the Wuzzit Trouble Jr. game for the whole class to see. Tell them that the Wuzzits are in trouble and need your help!  Navigate to the first puzzle. Ask students what they think they need to do to play the game. Give them a few moments to respond, then model how to play.
      • Turn the small gear to move the big gear, which moves the key to the pointer and frees the Wuzzit.  
      • Point out that you are turning the gear two times because the “5” inside the small gear signals that each turn equal five notches and you need to get to 10.
      • On the next screen, show how you earned three stars because you turned the gear two times in one move. Explain that if you had turned it once and stopped and then turned it again, you would have earned less stars.
      • Play the second puzzle, this time inviting a volunteer to turn the gear. Ask the volunteer to explain his or her strategy.
      • Before students play on their own, show them how they can move the gear in both directions (clockwise or counterclockwise). Also show how to click the replay button to correct a mistake or earn more stars.
    Remind students that just like in the warm-up activity, there in no one right answer.
  4. Now have students explore the game -- independently, in pairs, or in small groups. Allow 10-15 minutes for students to play through puzzle 8.
  5. Encourage students who may not understand how to solve a puzzle to collaborate with other students who are progressing through the game.
  6. If students have individual logins through My BrainPOP, encourage them to use the SnapThought®  tool to take snapshots of significant moments during game play and reflect on their strategies. Check out Wuzzit Trouble: Additional Features for My BrainPOP for more information and specific SnapThought prompts you can provide students during Wuzzit Trouble game play.
  7. As you circulate, listen as students discuss their strategies, and provide help as needed. For example, in the Botany Lab, puzzle 8 they need to rotate the gear three times to get the total, and puzzle 1 in the Invention Room is the first time they will want to rotate the gear in the opposite direction.
  8. Once everyone has completed puzzle 8, bring students together for a whole-class discussion about their strategies. Display puzzle 8 since it’s fresh in their minds and invite a volunteer to show how he or she completed this puzzle. Ask what they had to do to earn three stars, and explain their thinking.
  9. Conclude the lesson by telling the class that they will be freeing Wuzzits again soon!

Extension Activities:

After a few sessions playing Wuzzit Trouble Jr. and moving through several levels of play, have students work in small groups to create their own human Wuzzit Trouble Jr. puzzles. This should include the big and small gears and one student can even be the Wuzzit. Have them decide whether they want their puzzles to include one or two numbers to unlock the Wuzzit. Invite students to solve each other’s puzzles.